REMAWowzer. I was a mess, wasn’t I?

Rema takes responsibility for finding herself in a violent and abusive relationship and hanging on for years to the belief that it would change. Long enough to have three kids. She chose bad companions and knew that experimenting with crack cocaine would probably lead to addiction. There were things she did not bring on herself, including fibromyalgia, bone cancer and a car crash that left her with chronic back pain and a numbing smorgasbord of pain killers.

Rema wanted to see changes in her life and knew that she needed a companion on her way to a better place.

“If it wasn’t for Cheryl, I honestly don’t have an answer as to how my life would have been.”

One way or another, Rema was in a bad relationship with young children and a long list of habits, illnesses and injuries that were conspiring to kill her and put her kids in the hands of strangers. Meanwhile, Cheryl Matthews was a caseworker at WJS, a private social services company in Western Canada and Ontario.

Cheryl remembers well.

“When I started working with WJS in November of 2010 one of the first families I was introduced to was a mother with three children. Rema’s 16 year old daughter,14 year old son and 12 year old daughter had been taken from her care. It was déjà vu. I’d known Rema before and things had only gotten worse since then, There was a lot of work to do, and we got right to it.”

Rema wanted her kids back. That goal took over from the drugs and the pain and gave her the courage to leave an abusive relationship, find a place of her own and go it alone. Well, not entirely alone. Rema had support every step of the way from Cheryl. Together, they worked hard to earn supervised visits and did everything possible to have the children finally returned to Rema’s care.

It was hard for Rema. “I had strangers in my home and I was being told that before I could build a future for my family, I’d have to learn a lesson from the past and I didn’t want to do that. I just wanted to get away from there as fast and far as possible.”

Even though it was hard just get out of bed some mornings because of the pain, Rema saw that her kids were fed, clothed and stayed in school. Cheryl remembers that Rema could get angry at times and she made a lot of demands, but it was always for the kids.

“I spent a lot of time driving them to appointments and to buy groceries and helping get them to activities and school. They’d seen and been through a lot, but they’re survivors and I think Rema became an inspiration for them.”

Cheryl helped Rema with the two girls.

“Her son has a close friend whose family is a big support to him. So I concentrated on the girls and mom. I helped with everything from relationships to getting diplomas and jobs. I spent time going to the pool and park and making crafts … going to a youth group so the youngest could be with other kids her age. She really seemed to like getting out of the house and doing things.”

Today, Rema is feeling positive following a move to Edmonton and finding work. She’s been able to get housing support and services through Bent Arrow and Creating Hope Society. The kids are finding their way with new friends, new opportunities and big dreams.

Rema is grateful to many, and for much.

“To Cheryl, Penny and Agatha … thank you for understanding me and the children. For picking me up and dusting me off. For teaching me that is OK to cry. Thank you for the life you gave me and the children.”

Today, Rema is eager to tell her tale of survival. She’s been asked to help others by offering her experience as part of a multi-city Women Empowering Women seminar and she’s happily said ‘yes.’

She has quite a story to tell.